Rose Bowl 2010: 10 Things To Know About Wisconsin vs. TCU
The BCS Bowl matchups are official, and, as expected, Big Ten co-champ Wisconsin will take on undefeated TCU of the Mountain West Conference in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.
While it is difficult to make too many sweeping proclamations about bowl season with so many games on tap, this one between the third-ranked Horned Frogs and the fifth-ranked Badgers in Pasadena could very turn out to, indeed, be the grand daddy of the them all.
Even though the game is almost a month away, it's never too early to take a closer look at the teams set to compete in the biggest bowl game this side of the national title bout between Auburn and Oregon.
With that in mind, here are 10 important points to consider about the 97th edition of the Rose Bowl game.
TCU: Horned Frogs Dance With the Big Boys
While the upcoming Rose Bowl may not be TCU's first-ever BCS bowl berth, it will certainly be the most important football game in the program's history since beating Carnegie Mellon in the 1939 Sugar Bowl to cap an 11-0 season and an AP National Championship.
The Horned Frogs have certainly fallen off a bit in terms of prestige since the days of Davey O'Brien and, more recently, the dissolution of the Southwest Conference.
The Fort Worth-based school has spent the last 14 years wandering the college football landscape for a permanent home. With a scheduled move to the Big East scheduled for 2012, the Horned Frogs will have played in four different conferences since the Big Eight and the SWC joined forces while leaving TCU out of the picture.
Now, Gary Patterson's squad has a chance to establish itself among the elite before joining a BCS conference.
And not like last year, when TCU was pitted against Boise State, another BCS outsider, in what turned out to be something of a ho-hum Fiesta Bowl.
This time around, the Frogs will have the opportunity to earn the respect of the college football world against Wisconsin, a traditional Big Ten powerhouse, on arguably the biggest stage the sport has to offer.
Just the sort of once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity that TCU is unlikely to get again, even as (and perhaps due to being) a member of the Big East.
Wisconsin: Party Like It's 1999
Wisconsin, on the other hand, has an established history playing in the Rose Bowl, though the Badgers haven't reached the grand daddy of them all since 2000.
Those were the glory days of the Wisconsin football program, when Barry Alvarez roamed the sidelines as Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne ran over helpless defenders on the field.
In fourth-ranked Wisconsin's 17-9 victory over 22nd-ranked Stanford–the Badgers' second consecutive Rose Bowl victory–"The Dayne Train" became the first Big Ten player ever to take home multiple Rose Bowl Game MVP honors, a distinction that only three others have shared–Washington's Bob Schloredt, USC's Charles White and Texas' Vince Young.
Since then, the Badgers have maintained a consistent winning tradition, though they've fallen short of winning the Big Ten and reaching a BCS bowl until this year.
Alvarez resigned as head coach in 2005, handing off the reigns of the program to Bret Bielema while staying on as the school's athletic director.
Now, in his fifth year on the job, Bielema has the Badgers primed for their first trip to Pasadena in more than a decade.
TCU: All About Defense
If there's anything that Gary Patterson's Horned Frogs are known for, it's defense.
And for good reason. TCU is tops in the nation in four separate defensive categories–total defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense, and pass defense–while coming in at a lowly third in rush defense.
The Frogs employ an innovative 4-2-5 scheme, which relies on speed more than size and strength to smother and frustrate its opponents. Star linebacker Tank Carder and defensive tackle Cory Grant make this unit the nation's stingiest across the board.
In other words, it's tough to do much of anything offensively against the Horned Frogs' D.
Wisconsin: The Tailback Trifecta
It's tough to pity the Badgers in their task of scoring against the Horned Frogs' defense when considering the weapons that Bret Bielema's bunch has to work with.
More specifically, Wisconsin sports arguably the most talented stable of 'backs in the country.
The group is headlined by junior John Clay, a 6'1", 255-pound bruiser, who accumulated 936 yards and 13 touchdowns in the team's first nine games before missing the better part of the last three due to injury.
Without Clay, the Badgers' ground game continued to roll, putting up 70 points against Northwestern and an astonishing 83 points against Indiana.
Those astounding point totals came largely on the backs of sophomore Montee Ball (864 yards, 17 touchdowns) and freshman James White (1,029 yards, 14 touchdowns), who will likely share ball-carrying duties with Clay for Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
If the Horned Frogs were ever to be fearful of another team's running attack, it would be in this game.
TCU: Andy Dalton, Winning Incarnate
One guy who'll be lucky enough not to deal with Wisconsin's three-headed monster face-to-face is TCU quarterback Andy Dalton.
The senior from Katy, Texas has a career record of 41-8, including a 24-1 mark over the last two seasons.
Dalton's collegiate resume also features 70 touchdown passes and more than 10,000 passing yards, placing him in good company among the greatest quarterbacks in Horned Frogs history, alongside the likes of Sammy Baugh and Davey O'Brien.
Not bad for a guy who has never gotten the recognition he deserves as one of the nation's most prolific passers.
Wisconsin: Scott Tolzien vs. the Frogs
As great as Dalton has been for TCU, Wisconsin's quarterback is far from a slouch, even by comparison.
Scott Tolzien may not be the four-year starter that Dalton is, but he is a senior nonetheless with ample experience playing in big games.
With such a potent stable of running backs behind him, Tolzien has done everything the Badgers have needed of him, throwing for 2,300 yards and 16 touchdowns en route to a 169.80 efficiency rating this season.
And while Tolzien won't necessarily have to match Dalton toss for toss in order for Wisconsin to come away with a win on New Year's Day, he just may have to do more than simply hand the ball off to the law firm of Clay, Ball, and White.
TCU: Dressed For Success Against the BCS
Aside from all of the obvious benefits of playing in the Rose Bowl, TCU will have the opportunity to quiet critics like Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee, who claim that schools from less prestigious conferences don't deserve to play in high profile bowl games against BCS competition.
Not that the Horned Frogs haven't fared well against big conference competition already.
TCU carries with it into the Rose Bowl a 15-3 mark against BCS conference schools since 2002, including wins against Oregon State of the Pac-10 and rival Baylor of the Big 12 just this year.
Though those wins admittedly came against middling BCS competition, TCU's overall record against such teams speaks for itself.
More importantly, it shows that the Horned Frogs can play with the big kids, so to speak.
And, of course, a win over Wisconsin would serve as an emphatic middle finger to Gee and the Buckeyes, who lost 31-18 to the Badgers this season.
Wisconsin: Proving Its Rose Bowl Berth Worth
Wisconsin certainly has plenty to prove in the Rose Bowl as well.
The Badgers shared the 2010 Big Ten title with Ohio State and Michigan State, but nabbed the conference's automatic Rose Bowl berth by virtue of finishing the season with the highest BCS ranking of the three.
Such has been met with some controversy by Buckeye and Spartan fans, and rightfully so.
After all, why should the Badgers, and not either of the other two, play in Pasadena when all three have identical 11-1 records, including 7-1 marks in the Big Ten?
The Badgers will need a win in the Rose Bowl to prove that the Big Ten did, indeed, send its best team to represent it in the biggest of games.
Otherwise, there will be streams of "what if's" flooding the airwaves from Columbus and East Lansing for days, if not weeks, on end.
Gary Patterson vs. Bret Bielema: A Tale Of Two Coaches
As far as the head-to-head matchup is concerned, both teams will be led into the game by highly successful coaches with very different styles.
On the one hand is Bret Bielema, who has amassed a 49-15 record at Wisconsin, including a 2-2 mark in bowl games, since taking over for coaching legend Barry Alvarez in 2006.
As an alumnus of the University of Iowa football program and a former assistant coach for the Hawkeyes from 1993 until 2001, Bielema brings with him a strong Big Ten pedigree. His team reflects this history, playing the type of smash mouth football with a power running game that's indicative of the conference's storied history.
Gary Patterson, on the other hand, comes from a somewhat less prestigious coaching background, having been an assistant coach at schools like Kansas State and New Mexico before landing the defensive coordinator gig at TCU.
Patterson took over as the Horned Frogs' head coach in 2000 after Dennis Franchione took off for Alabama and hasn't looked back since. In that span, Patterson's teams have posted seven 10-win seasons and 97 wins overall, making him the second winningest coach in the program's 114 year history.
TCU's success under Patterson has been predicated on defense, an area in which the Horned Frogs' head coach has proven to be an innovator with his unusual but extremely effective 4-2-5 scheme.
In short, this game should make for a rather intriguing meeting of the minds in Pasadena.
The Numbers Suggest a Close Game
On the field, this edition of the Rose Bowl Game should be about as evenly matched as one could hope for.
For the first time since Texas and USC played for the BCS National Championship, the Rose Bowl will play host to two top-5 teams who boast a combined 19 consecutive wins.
On paper, TCU would seem to have the advantage, with the nation's most dominant defense, while Wisconsin's talented backfield and experience in big games may tilt the scales in the Badgers' favor.
However, perhaps no single fact conveys just how close the game might be than this:
Both teams have scored exactly 520 points this season, meaning that both teams average 43.33 points per game–tied for fourth most in the country.
And while neither team is likely to light up the scoreboard in such a fashion on New Year's Day, those watching can certainly expect a close and entertaining game nonetheless.